March: Christopher Yao Picture - The HALO Awards 2013

March: Christopher Yao

Growing up with a severe underbite, Christopher Yao learned early on to persevere through tough situations. While researching his own condition, he came across online images of children with cleft lips and palates. He was surprised to learn that many of these children are abandoned at birth and have extraordinary difficulties speaking, eating, obtaining work and living productive lives. In the sixth grade, Yao decided to organize his first annual Read-A-Thon to benefit children with clefts and raised over $1,000 – more than four times his initial goal.

Surprised by the magnitude of his own impact as a kid and inspired to do more, Yao founded the non-profit organization, Kids Change the World , in 2007. Its mission is to provide free websites, grants, fiscal sponsorships and other grassroots services to young people who want to create their own charitable programs. Kids Change the World also continues his work of funding cleft lip and palate surgeries for children across the globe. To date, it has supported over 70 such life-changing procedures. Last summer, Yao was awarded a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study in China where, for the first time, he was able to meet cleft lip and palate patients, and surgeons, who benefitted from his contributions.

Since its founding, Kids Change the World has grown into one of the world's leading youth-led civic service organizations. In addition to encouraging young people of all walks of life to volunteer, the group has helped create various service programs that benefit members of the armed forces, promote recycling and provide at-risk students worldwide with educational resources through the organization's Education Preparation program. For this school year, Kids Change the World was able to collect and distribute nearly 1,000 books and 200 school planners.

Upon graduating from Jericho Senior High School in New York this spring, Yao will attend college this fall, where he plans to concentrate his studies in the sciences, education policy and healthcare management. He hopes to pursue a career that will allow him to continue his service work.

Check out our exclusive interview with Christopher here!